My Youth Romantic Comedy Is Wrong As I Expected, Vol. 14.5

By Wataru Watari and Ponkan 8. Released in Japan as “Yahari Ore no Seishun Rabukome wa Machigatte Iru” by Gagaga Bunko. Released in North America by Yen On. Translated by Jennifer Ward.

Generally speaking, you can’t rely on the cover art of a light novel series to tell you who’s important in that particular volume. This especially goes for romcoms, where it tends to alternate between the heroines regardless of whether they have a presence in the book. This volume of Oregairu, though, is an exception. If you’re here for Yui, expect disappointment. If you’re here for Yukino, you’ll get one really nice scene and that’s about it. No, most of this book, as the cover indicates, is about the next generation of the series. Our heroes are in their third year, talking about preparatory schools and discussing which colleges to apply to. Their mentor has moved to a new school and isn’t even mentioned in the post-ending story. This it’s up to the new generation to decide what the service club is going to be in the future: Komachi (who is a member) and Iroha (who isn’t, but might as well be). Unfortunately, they don’t seem to care.

The book consists of five stories, but only the final one is new to Japanese readers. The first two were Blu-Ray extras, and feature Komachi trying to decide who will be the best “big sister” for her – i.e., who will Hachiman end up paired up with? This takes place before the end of the series, so as you can imagine the answers are mostly comedic. We then get an adaptation of a CD drama, as Hachiman and his sister go to a music festival and run into Iroha, Yukino, Yui, and Tobe (their gofer and bodyguard). This has the most “Hachiman” narration of the book. A fourth story (written for a collaborative project) involves Iroha’s birthday, and her odd but comfortable relationship with Hachiman. Finally, we get a story set after the events of the final book, which is mostly about Hachiman worrying over his sister’s future at school.

I’ve talked a lot before about how I think the relationship between Hachiman and Komachi is one of the best written brother-sister relationships in light novels, and that continues to be true. He has to reluctantly accept that his sister is a lot more socially adept than he is, and thus her classroom life is fine. But they all have to deal with the elephant in the room, which is that Komachi joined the service club to be with her brother, Yukino, and Yui, and they’re going to have to leave it by the summer to gear up for college exams. The one bit of Hachiman/Yukino romance we get is set in a cafe near a college he’s visiting, and is (for this series) syrupy sweet, as Yukino has learned to take Hachiman’s realistic asides and roll with them, and they both have learned to accept actual affection. Just. As for Yui, she plans to go to prep school with Hachiman, but honestly, she gets the short end of the stick here. In other words, just like the series overall.

And so this series has now come to a close. I can confidently say there was not a single time in this volume I wanted Hachiman to shut the hell up, which shows how much he’s grown as a person. Fans of the series should enjoy this slight but heartwarming epilogue.

My Youth Romantic Comedy Is Wrong As I Expected, Vol. 14

By Wataru Watari and Ponkan 8. Released in Japan as “Yahari Ore no Seishun Rabukome wa Machigatte Iru” by Gagaga Bunko. Released in North America by Yen On. Translated by Jennifer Ward.

I will note that the ending to this series feels very much like you’d expect. The whole thing has involved people avoiding the subject, ducking the real issues, and trying to take care of everything without getting anyone else involved – all things that are impossible if you want to be an actual romantic couple. So somebody is going to have to take a step up here. It’s not going to be Yui, who communicates her feelings to Hachiman in the best “Hachimanese” she can, but he knows and won’t say anything. It’s also not going to be Hachiman, who will never do anything the honest, straightforward way if he can possibly duck out of it. No, it’s going to have to be Yukino, still trying to get the approval of her mother, and putting on a very nice compromise prom that has no problems… but still is not good enough. It’s going to require working together to get a happy ending… and possibly an actual confession.

So yes, they have the prom, and it goes well. Yui gets to dance with Hachiman. Yukino gets to validate herself in front of her family. Iroha gets to feel important and be really annoying. It’s good… but is it good enough? There was a bigger, cooler prom that got shot down, right? Shouldn’t they have fought harder for it? What’s more, it involved another high school, and they’re busy asking “hey, what about that joint prom?”. It’ll take a lot of work to fix this, as well as some brazen lying and bluffing. Fortunately, they have someone who is fantastic at hard work and someone who is fantastic at brazen lying and bluffing. Unfortunately, they’re both acting as if, once this is over, they’ll drift apart and never see each other again. Can Hachiman and Yukino be kicked in the ass enough to confess to each other?

This doesn’t spoil too much (if you think it’s a spoiler Hachiman and Yukino are the final pairing, I urge you to reread Vols 1-13), but it feels absolutely right that Yukino is able, after the 2nd prom, to finally come out with a sincere “I love you”, but Hachiman’s confession to HER is about as oblique as “the moon is beautiful tonight”, basically saying that he wants to continue to get involved with her problems and be in her life. But that’s huge, for him. He wants to be close to someone. He even admits he’s going to get a job after college, rather than the bullshit “househusband” thing he’s always said before. As for Yui… I’m sorry, this is not the sort of series that was going to end with an OT3, though at least she is still trying to stay friends with them. In the end, the only one who exits the story here is Shizuka, who gets transferred to another school, but not before one last dance with her favorite student.

This is the final volume… except there’s a short story collection coming after this. It’s mostly “bundle up the short stories that came out with Blu-Ray boxes”, but has one taking place after this book. In the meantime, this feels like a very appropriate ending for the series.

My Youth Romantic Comedy Is Wrong As I Expected, Vol. 13

By Wataru Watari and Ponkan 8. Released in Japan as “Yahari Ore no Seishun Rabukome wa Machigatte Iru” by Gagaga Bunko. Released in North America by Yen On. Translated by Jennifer Ward.

As I mentioned last time, My Youth Romantic Comedy Is Wrong As I Expected is not a love story between the dour cynic Hachiman and the bubbly optimist Yui. You know it. I know it. Heck, even Yui knows it. But the series ends with the 14th book rather than the 13th, so this volume is devoted to giving our third protagonist as much screen time as it can get away with given that Hachiman is still its first person narrator. She’s on the cover, and she’s also helping Hachiman with his plan, which can basically be summed up as “do dumb Hachiman stuff in order to draw all the consequences to him”, only by now everyone’s savvy enough not to fall for it – not to mention it’s pretty half-assed to begin with. She and Hachiman make a very good team. Unfortunately, everything he does in this book is for Yukino’s sake. There’s a technical cliffhanger here, but no one in their right mind would believe it. Poor Yui.

Yui suffers mostly from being a bright-eyed optimist in a world of bitter cynics. This includes Haruno, who can’t even drink herself into oblivion; Hayama, who likens himself to a scratching post and has a streak of self-hatred a mile wide; Shizuka, who’s being transferred to a different school (as frequently happens in Japan) and desperately wants to see her manipulations actually pay off and not be destroyed; and even Iroha, our little agent of chaos, who spends much of this book boggling at Hachiman still trying to throw himself against the wall that is Yukino over and over again. He can’t help her with prom, mostly because of that bullshit co-dependence thing Haruno spewed out (Yui needing this explained to her was a highlight). What he can do is serve as a distraction, and honestly, that’s what most of this book is; it’s tap dancing in front of us trying to wait till the resolution in the 14th volume.

While I’m still irritated with Haruno, I will grant that her muttered aside in front of Hachiman did save the day, as he quickly realized what was going on with Yukino’s mother… well, quickly realized it after she tore apart his plan like tissue paper. The running gag in this book is that Hachiman’s plan is rather half-assed and pathetic, and no one seems to think it’s good enough – not even the business minded president of their neighboring high school, who is as annoying as ever but has also earned the punishment of having a crush on Orimoto, which I would not wish on anyone. As for Yukino, well, mostly absent, except for a few very important scenes. Words still need to be said. They aren’t. They’re implied – we have BUCKETS of implication in this book. But “a man’s pride” is not good enough.

All this and we still have enough time for the best written sibling relationship in light novels. This is a strong volume in the series, despite the fact that it feels like delaying tactics. Can’t get away with that next time.